Saudi soldiers Mt. Doud 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Northern Shi'ite rebels in Yemen handed over a Saudi soldier captured in cross border fighting to Yemeni government mediators, an official reported, in the latest sign that the six-year-old conflict is calming down.
Yehia Abdullah al-Khuzaei was handed over to a committee which supervises a cease-fire reached last week between Yemeni government and Shiite rebels, known as Hawthis, to end the long-running war, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
After two of their soldiers were killed in a cross-border raid in November, Saudi forces joined the conflict, unleashing air strikes and artillery barrages on the rebels. At least 133 Saudi soldiers died and five were declared missing.
The Saudis on Saturday gave 48 hours for the rebels to hand over the missing soldiers, after last month declaring their battle with the Hawthis to be over.
The long-running rebellion, which began when the northern tribesmen took up arms complaining of neglect and sectarian discrimination, flared anew last year and has displaced more than a quarter million people.
The US and other countries have pressured Yemen to resolve the conflict so that it can concentrate on the emergence of an offshoot of al-Qaida in Yemen that masterminded a failed airline bombing in the US.
"The United States welcomes the cease-fire in the conflict between the Government of Yemen and the Hawthi rebels," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement Monday. "We have significantly increased assistance to address the political, economic and security challenges that Yemen faces."
Clinton also expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the desperately poor north after months of fierce fighting.
On Monday, the official Yemeni news agency also reported that 13 soldiers were killed and another wounded in a helicopter crash in the province where the rebellion is taking place.
The agency quoted an unnamed official saying Sunday's crash at Saada airport was due to a technical fault.
It said the plane crashed into a military vehicle with three soldiers on board shortly after taking off from the military airport carrying seven wounded soldiers and its crew of four soldiers.